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THE DISARMAMENT AND INTERNATIONAL

SECURITY COMMITTEE (DISEC)


BACKGROUND GUIDE

PROTECTION OF JOURNALISTS IN ARMED CONFLICT


The least we can do when a journalist is murdered, is to ensure that the death is investigated
swiftly and that justice is served. It is shocking and unacceptable that more than 90% of the
assassinations of journalists go unpunished.

INTRODUCTION
Both in conflict zones and across the globe, the majority of information on the ongoing
events of armed conflict is discerned, though in many forms, through a single means
journalism. 31 In the context of armed conflict, journalists can mean many things including:
reporters, photographers, news producers, cameramen, and many other media personnel
serving in support roles to news agencies and reporters. are part of daily life. 32 For anyone
operating in a conflict zone, risks are a part of daily life. 33 However for journalists, the
likelihood of those risks grows exponentially. 34 Journalists are generally required to pursue
the facts, figures, and truth at all costs while remaining objective and not in promotion of
war propaganda. 35 This frequently means exposing themselves to dangerous and often fatal
situations. Put simply, journalists in armed conflict are subject to "torture, extrajudicial killings,
enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, as well as intimidation and harassment. 37

The last few years are littered with examples of journalists killed or injured in the course of
their duties. In May 2014, Camille Lepage, a French photojournalist was killed in the Central
African Republic (CAR). 38 It is thought that she was traveling in a particularly dangerous area
bordering neighbouring Cameroon with a militia group. Syria, over 60 journalists have been
killed since 2011. 39 In 40 In one instance, a British reporter and a photographer were
captured and brutally mistreated by rebel groups, including being shot and severely beaten.
41 Finally, as the current situation in the Ukraine becomes increasingly unstable, the safety of
journalists is a growing concern. 42 On 29 April 2014, kidnappers released an American
journalist after blindfolding and beating him for days. 43 Foreign journalists however, are not
the only population placed in great risk; much of the harm to journalists is on domestic
journalist those that are nationals to a state in conflict. shot while walking to his home. 44
On 7 July 2013, Somali TV journalist Libaan Abdullahi Farah was 45 Also in July 2013,
Mohammad Bader, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera and Egyptian national was imprisoned for
attempted murder and possessing a weapon while covering protests against former Egyptian
President Mohamed Morsi. 46

INTERNATIONAL FRAMEWORK
Article 79 of the First Additional Protocol of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August
1949, states *j+ournalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed
conflict shall be considered as civilians (). 2. They shall be protected as such under the
Conventions and this Protocol provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status
as civilians (). 47 This doctrine is the principle basis for international law and the legalities
and codes of conduct during wartime towards the civilian population and towards journalist
operating in conflict zones. 48 For decades, these founding documents were the sole basis for
protection and justice for the various civilian populations. 49 However, on 2 November 1973,
the United Nations (UN) General Assembly (GA) adopted Resolution 3058 (XXVIII) on the
protection of journalists engaged in dangerous missions in areas of armed conflict. 50
Resolution 3058 (XXVIII) recognized the gap and growing need for a solution regarding
increased safety and security of journalists operating in conflict zones. 51 Further, Resolution
3058 (XXVIII) highlighted the need to establish a convention specific to the needs of
journalists in armed conflict due to their unique humanitarian and safety needs. 52 While there
are conferences pertaining to journalists, media, and the right to free press, to date there is
no such convention specific to journalists in armed conflict. 54 53 As the right to the freedom

of press is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it is critical that
these rights be ensured during armed conflict.
On 12 April 2012, the UN adopted the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and
the Issue of Impunity, which specifically sets out to uphold the fundamental right of freedom
of expression and creat*e+ a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers.
55 Pursuant to this plan, the 2013-2014 Implementation Strategy, a partnership primarily
between the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Office of
the High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNOCHR), and the UN Development Programme
(UNDP) was released. 56 The Implementation Strategy details the specific means by which the
UN Plan of Action will operate with specific goals of citizen awareness, development of national
strategies, emergency response, generating understanding of the dangers and threats facing
journalists. 57 Over a year later, on 26 November 2013, the UN GA Third Committee drafted
a text on the *s+afety of journalists and the issue of impunity further promoting this agenda.
58 In essence, this text reaffirmed the commitment of the UN to the journalists safety and to
filling the stillpresent gaps. 59 Other UN officials and agencies have also given decisions and
issued reports that specifically highlight, express concern over, and call for action on the
protection of journalists including: the Human Rights Council, the Office for the Coordination
for Humanitarian Affairs, and the UN Secretary-General. 60

Precedence in the Security Council


In addition to these organizations, the UN Security Council has participated in the discussion
of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. 61 Notable meetings and resolutions relating to
the debate of civilians in armed conflict include the debate at 3978th meeting on 12 February
1999 and resolutions 1265 (1999), 1296 (2000), and 1674 (2006). 62 Resolution 1738 (2006),
however, is the Security Councils principle document reaffirming the status of journalists as
civilians as laid out in the previous resolutions and within the international framework. 63
While not specific to journalists, these decisions are vital to understanding the action that the
Council can and is willing to take in relation to the protection of civilians. In 2012 and 2013,
the Security Council adopted three resolutions and one presidential statement that mentioned
journalists protection. 65 64 Resolutions 2067 (2012) and 2093 (2013) both in relation to
the conflict in Somalia and Resolution 2042 (2012) and Presidential Statement S/PRST/2012/6
dealing with the issue of Syria.
However, the subject of the protection of journalists in armed conflict has largely not been a
thematic focus of the Security Council. 66 On 17 July 2013, the Council held its first open
debate specifically relating to journalist safety and their protection in armed conflict. 67 During
this debate, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson called for the Security Council to
support the UN Plan of Action by reacting to and standing up against suppression of media
freedom. 68 To do so the Security Council may consider issues of targeting and suppression
of the freedom of expression within the context of country-specific agenda items. 69
Moreover, at the UN, journalist safety and protection is rooted in the Responsibility to Protect
(R2P) doctrine. Conflict zones are increasingly not meeting international thresholds for what is
deemed an armed conflict, thus limiting the ability of the international community to justify
under international law, their protection. protection. 70 This has led some to seek new

parameters for 71 The Secretary-General of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Reporters


Without Borders (RWB) addressed the Security Council on this issue on 13 December 2013
specifically with the aims of generating a greater debate on the role of the Security Council in
protecting journalists in armed conflict. 72

PREVENTION AND RIGHT TO FREE PRESS


It is thus the responsibility of the international community to develop and define the
parameters by which journalists protection should be upheld. Much has been discussed since
the start of the 21st century on preventative security and what can be done outside of
conflict to protect journalists when conflicts does erupt. 73 The right to free press is no
exception from this discussion. While free press is considered a right at the UN, this is not the
case throughout much of the world. 74 Many countries have heavy censorship policies, which
in turn generate a culture of 75 Censorship itself can be considered a conflict instigator.
oppression. clear example of such oppression that turned tensions into violence. expression as
a key component to ensuring the safety of journalists. 76 The Arab Uprisings that began in
2011 are a 77 The UN has thusly identified the freedom of 78 Specifically, the UN Plan of
Action, looks to rais*e+ awareness among citizens about the consequences when journalists
have their right to free expression curtailed; [help] governments develop laws to safeguard
journalists; *and+ provid*e+ training courses for journalists. 79 In Tunisia, as part of the UN Plan
of Action, the country has built a series of regional trainings to enhance cooperation between
security forces and journalists, and to aimed at sensitising security forces officers on the
issues of human rights, freedom of expression and safety of journalists. 80

PROTECTION AND SECURITY


In addition to prevention, more can be done to further improve journalists physical
protection and care. Of particular concern for the Security Council are the five principle areas
that challenge the protection of civilians highlighted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon his
most recent report. 81 They are: enhancing compliance with applicable international law,
enhancing compliance by non-state armed groups, strengthening protection by UN
peacekeeping and other missions, and ensuring humanitarian access and promoting
accountability. 82 Beyond mere safety measures, key objectives of the UN Plan of Action that
align with such challenges include the development of emergency response mechanisms and
furthering the knowledge and comprehensive understanding of the dangers and threats facing

journalists and media personnel. 83 As civilians, professional journalists are not typically
equipped with the skills, training, or resources to survive in dangerous conflict zones. This was
a key theme at the July 2013 Security Council open debate in particular on how to better
prepare journalists for operating in armed conflict. 84 Suggestions have included increased
trainings, additional resources, increased cooperation, and sensitizing across security sectors to
the safety of journalists, as well as increasing the recognition of journalists as persons of
special interests to the Security Council, thus opening up greater opportunities for protection.
85

JUSTICE AND IMPUNITY


The need to move forward towards concrete action of the prosecution of crimes committed
against journalist is clear, especially as 90% of assassinations of journalists go unpunished. 86
Journalists are not simply killed or injured in the line of duty. Rather, parties of interest in the
conflicts strategically target these individuals to prevent and stop the free flow of information
that would often otherwise call attention to illegal and inhumane actions. 87 As of June 2014,
the Committee to Protect Journalist (CJP) indicates 22 journalists or other media workers have
been killed this year alone. 88 However, few of these deaths if any have been subject to
proper investigation or trial. require action at both the national and international levels in
judiciary and police institutions. Brazil has developed a national plan to this effect. 89 Such
reforms 90 Through UNESCO, 91 Specifically, an initiative whereby judges and others within
the judiciary system can openly discuss and debate issues relating to impunity with respect to
the safety and protection of journalists in ongoing as part of the UN Plan of Action pilot
program. 92 The implementation of such plans highlights also an opportunity to encourage and
empower south-south cooperation, something in line with Security Council goals particularly in
relation to security sector reform.

CONCLUSION AND QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH


Often risking their lives in cataclysmically dangerous situations to bring light to the truth,
journalists are a necessary component of justice, understanding, and peace. 94 In a 1941
letter, CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow wrote: I have no desire to use the studio as a
privileged pulpit, but I am convinced that some very plain talking is required, even if it be at
the price of being labeled a warmonger. I am convinced that the hour is much later than
most people at home appreciate. 95 This freedom of expression and right to information was

crucial to the multi-faceted war effort, from military and political engagement to social and
community support. 96 To this day it often requires individuals like Murrow, working in the
heart of conflict zones, to instig0ate the best action in pursuit of human rights, justice, and
international peace and security.
In the current context of reporting in conflict zones, issues still remain. As technology advances
so does journalism and the means by which the world receives information on armed conflicts.
The July 2013 debate of the Security Council made it clear, that the individuals protected
under in accordance with the Geneva Conventions are professional journalists. But in the
context of ever-changing conflict situations, when traditional news outlets are unable to put
individuals on the ground, the local population often via social medium, blogs, and other
virtual mediums, become the reporters for their people. Thus, it is clearly in the benefit of the
international community to adapt in the context of armed conflict to needs of journalists in the
21st century. Furthermore, there is debate in the Security Council itself whether or not to
expand this topic the protection of journalists to times of non-conflict. The three main
questions facing the Security Council are: how to ensure a safe and enabling environment for
journalists; how to strengthen implementation of norms and mechanisms to protect
journalists; and how to enhance the protection of journalists in non-armed conflict settings. 98
In pursuing their research, delegates should also consider:

What policy gaps still remain and what will have the greatest impact on and
transformation of the protection of journalists in armed conflict?

What measures can be taken to improve the pre-existing infrastructure and


international legal framework established to protect journalists in armed conflict?
What can the Security Council do to protect journalist in cases of non-traditional armed
conflicts?

BIBLIOGRAPHY
nmun.org/nmun_europe14.html